BOSTON (FOX 25 / MyFoxBoston.com) A Rhode Island woman who suffers from two medical conditions spoke with FOX 25 about using medical marijuana to ease her pain.
Ellen Lenox Smith doesn't want to be in a wheel chair or wear a neck brace, but it's the only way she can get around when her conditions get really bad.
"I've had 20 surgeries to try and get myself back on my feet, to walk again, to be able to move around and hold myself together," says Ellen.
Ellen has one condition called Ehlers-Danlos, which is a connective tissue disorder.
"So what it means is that connective tissue is about 80 percent of your body," Ellen explains. "It's the glue that holds things together, so my ligaments and tendons are stretched like rubber bands."
Ellen says that if someone were to hug her that her vertebrae would shift out of place. She says the illness is allowing her sternum to sink and the trachea to twist. She sleeps in a hospital bed that is elevated.
"The second condition is called sarcoidosis, and right now it has the potential to spread to other parts of the body," says Ellen. "Right now it is staying in the chest. My chest is filled with large lymph nodes, so my chest is getting a raw deal."
Ellen went to the pain clinic looking for something that will cure her constant pain. Clinic workers suggested she try medical marijuana.
"I remember laughing and saying in my head, ‘My parents would be rolling over in their graves if they heard that a doctor is suggesting this medication that we have been brought up to stay away from,'" says Ellen.
Massachusetts is giving the voters the opportunity to decide whether or not to legalize medical marijuana in the Commonwealth by adding Question 3 to the ballot in November.
If medical marijuana becomes legal in Mass., there would be distribution centers with strict oversight where patients would have written permission from their doctors saying they have a specific debilitating medical condition like cancer, glaucoma, HIV, AIDS, hepatitis C, Crohns, ALS, and more.
The patients would have a 60-day supply. If they can't get to the centers, they could grow it in their backyards. Patients and caregivers would have to register with the Department of Public Health.
Those who oppose Question 3 have major concerns about the law.
Some say that the law makes marijuana more accessible to the larger population, including those who don't have a legitimate medical purpose for it.
Harvard Medical School substance abuse researchers, who visit high schools to talk about marijuana, say this is a bad idea.
"A lot of these medications are not necessarily tested with young people so we have to take the same precautions with the teenage brain because we know that there will be both," says one expert. "The adolescent brain responds to substances differently than adults."
In spite of such issues, Joanne Leppanen, executive director of the Medical Marijuana Advocacy Group in Rhode Island, says this law has saved lives.
Leppanen says that studies suggest there has been no increase in teenage marijuana in the state of Rhode Island since this program went into effect.
Other states have medical marijuana laws that have been less than perfect. California has had issues with drug dealers skirting the system.